June 8, 2009 A new study of Chinese-American youth has found that family obligation, for example caring for siblings or helping elders, plays a positive role in the mental health of Chinese-American adolescents and may prevent symptoms of depression in later teenage years.
Published in the Journal of Family Psychology, the study found that 14-year-olds who reported a greater sense of family obligation reported fewer depressive symptoms by the time they reached 16. The findings suggest that family obligation may be protective against depressive symptoms. The authors suggest that a greater sense of family obligation in the early teenage years could provide teenagers with a strong family bond that makes them feel secure even when they move through adolescence and become more autonomous.
The longitudinal study surveyed 218 Chinese-American teenagers over a two-year period. As participants grew older, their actions to help and support their families decreased. However, their attitude and respect toward their families remained stable, indicating that immigrant adolescents continue to endorse their traditional cultural values even when their behaviors suggest they are becoming less traditional.
The study was authored by Linda Juang and Jeffrey Cookston, both associate professors of psychology at San Francisco State University. It will be published in the June issue of the Journal of Family Psychology, a special issue focusing on families and immigration.
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- Linda P. Juang and Jeffrey T. Cookston. A Longitudinal Study of Family Obligation and Depressive Symptoms Among Chinese American Adolescents. Journal of Family Psychology, 2009; 23 (3) DOI: 10.1037/a0015814
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